Second date awkwardness, gossip girls, personal quirks, raising kids, and the ups and downs of life. If you live it you will probably hear about it when you tune into Mandy in the Morning on Your 106.3. This is a show that everyone can relate to that will have you shaking your head, laughing, and talking out loud on your daily commute to work.
Mandy Williamson launched her radio career in Lexington in February. “This is the second stop and hopefully the last,” she said.
Born and raised in Panama City, FL, Williamson got her start in radio during an internship while she was a student at Florida State University. She graduated in 2010 with a major in communications and a minor in business. A career in radio was not initially on her radar.
“I loved radio. [As a child] I would always record on my little cassette tapes, but I never dreamed of being on air. I had no desire to do that,” she said.
Growing up Williamson wanted to be in commercial and print ads. “I thought models were beautiful. I wanted to be a model but quickly realized that was not for me,” she said laughing.
Little did she know that college internship would change her life. It was a time of growth while she was there. The station started adding to the morning show lineup. When Williamson graduated, she was offered a full-time job as an on-air host of the morning talk show.
“A whole part of my life has been trying to figure out where I fit and what I enjoy doing. When I fell into the internship I realized this is it. This is what I am supposed to be doing. I haven’t looked back since,” she said.
The program was a light-hearted talk show featuring entertainment, news, and relationships advice. It was modeled after the syndicated The Kidd Kraddick Morning Show, featuring late radio host and television personality Kidd Kraddick.
“He paved the way for a lot of radio personalities,” Williamson said as she reflects on her radio idol. She admires the charming sense Kraddick had about him. “He cared so much about people. He helped anyone out behind the scenes. He was a good person who changed radio and made it fun,” she said.
That is what Williamson aspires to be; someone who makes radio fun and relevant for her listeners. That’s why she left Panama City after working on air there for eight years. “I had outgrown the market in Panama City so I was looking to evolve as a personality and go somewhere where I can become something better,” she said.
Williamson’s husband, Eric, grew up in Georgetown. She knew he wanted to be closer to his large family so she put feelers out in Central Kentucky. She didn’t have to wait long. Within twenty minutes of making her initial inquiry at 106.3, she received a reply.
Several phone calls and a lunch meeting later, Williamson and her family of five were packed and moving to Kentucky.
“I am still very fresh. I love it. It’s a great fun little city,” she said. Williamson admires the beauty of horse country but admits, “I miss the beaches, but I do love the country!”
After just three months on the air, Williamson is still in the welcoming stage and inviting people into her life.
“Change is different. Not everyone loves change. I don’t want to come on strong or turn anyone off. I want this show to be everyone’s show, not just my show,” she said.
She is accustomed to having co-hosts to play off of. On Mandy in the Morning, the listener is her co-host. She wants them to call in, chat, laugh, and cut it up together like old friends do when they get together.
A listener-driven show has its challenges. Since the captive audience is simply heard and not seen, she can’t always gauge their reaction. She tries topics with the best intentions, but sometimes wonders if her humor is appreciated on the other end. At the end of the day, Mandy isn’t worried.
“It takes time for the show to evolve. The show will make a name for itself,” she said. She relies on the insight of listeners to help her learn what is relevant in Central Kentucky.
One segment to help her in that effort is called “What do you need to do to be a local?” At the top of the list was “outfit yourself in Wildcat Blue!” She has checked that particular box off. Another viewer suggested she try goat fries, something she was not familiar with; after learning what it actually is, Mandy admits it may not make her bucket list.
“Being somewhere new is hard. You don’t know where to go and what to do. Getting insight is helpful,” Williamson said.
Williamson does not have to look far for relatable material. She is a wife and mother of three. Thirteen-year-old Isabella, nine-year-old is Aiden and two-year-old Carter are an endless supply of anecdotal material. There was the time Aiden was digging through her drawers and found some of mom’s–how shall we say it–grown up toys.
At first, Williamson was frightened to be an open book and share such personal experiences, but she quickly saw the excitement that sharing brought to others. “I am an open book. It doesn’t bother me anymore,” she said.
Of course, being an open book isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when you are the teenage daughter of a mom who tells all. “The oldest one is horribly embarrassed,” she admitted. Nine-year-old Aiden isn’t old enough to be embarrassed yet. He thinks what his mom does is cool and wants to follow in her footsteps.
Her two-year-old recognizes her voice on the radio and will exclaim, “Mommy!” when he hears it.
As for her husband, Eric? She is, after all, on his home turf now. “He knows I will throw him under the bus,” she said, laughing. “Everybody knows him. They get a kick out of it. We have a fun playful relationship.”
In an age of satellite subscription radio, Williamson is confident local radio will continue to thrive because of the connections with people.
“Live, local radio is still very much alive. If you are having a bad morning and you get in the car and turn on the radio, you hear someone who is in the city with you,” she said. It’s about shared experiences.
“I always love connecting with the listeners. That’s the only reason I stay in radio. It’s very rewarding when you are out and about and a listener comes up and tells you how much you changed their life or that I am inspiring by a story I shared,” she said.
Williamson recently received an email from a single mom who wrote: “My son and I often listen to you in the morning! You’re fun and engaging and I like that we can listen without me having to worry about content. Sometimes I’m laughing, sometimes I’m cringing or even talking like they can hear me because I’m that crazy woman. It was a reassuring morning, so thank you!
As everyone juggles the daily obligations of life, it is reassuring to hear from someone who is also juggling it all while putting a smile on her face.
“We are making friends and family. I consider the listeners my family,” she said. “I want people to pick up little pieces of me they can relate to.”
It’s easy to do: simply tune in weekday mornings from 6am to 10am on 106.3. With two daily topics that include telling her something good, there is plenty of positive news to put a smile on your face on Mandy in the Morning. Williamson admits even those times when it doesn’t appear to work are often some of the best moments on the show. She calls it “awkward radio” that listeners seem to love.